Earth Sciences Division (ESD) Department of Energy (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL)

Earth Sciences Division Staff: Nigel W.T. Quinn

Nigel Quinn portrait

Nigel W.T. Quinn PhD, P.E., D.WRE

Group Leader

HydroEcological Engineering Advanced Decision Support (HEADS)

Ecology Department


Phone: 510-486-7056

Fax: 510-486-7152


Biographical Summary

Nigel Quinn leads the HydroEcological Engineering Advanced Decision Support research group (HEADS) at Berkeley National Laboratory which specializes in the development of environmental decision support systems to improve understanding and find solutions to complex water resources and water quality problems in California and world-wide. Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland he spent his early years in Zimbabwe and returned to the United Kingdom for college. After working in industry building irrigation systems in England and in Africa upon graduation he continued his career in the United States as a research and teaching assistant then instructor at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, where he obtained his MS and as a teaching asistant and General Electric Fellow at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. After graduating with his PhD Nigel continued as a Research Associate at Cornell on loan to the San Joaquin Valley Drainage Program, a multi-agency planning team based in Sacramento, California. He was recruited as a Staff Scientist at Berkeley National Laboratory in 1990 at the end of his research contract with the Drainage Program. He has worked at Berkeley National Laboratory for the past 18 years and holds adjunct faculty appointments at California State University Fresno where he is an Adjunct Research Professor in the Department of Plant Science and at the University of California, Merced where he is an Associate Research Engineer.

Research Interests

  • Application of systems analysis techniques to solving complex water resources problems.
  • Development of decision support systems and simulation models to improve understanding and facilitate negotiation of solutions to current water resource and water quality management issues.
  • Design and installation of telemetered environmental monitoring systems and sensor networks
  • Management of salinity from agriculture and seasonal wetland in the San Joaquin Basin of California
  • Application of algae-based biological treatment for remediation of selenium contaminated agricultural drainage
  • Regional conjunctive use groundwater modeling in the San Joaquin Basin
  • Development of micro-geophysical groundwater logging techniques for mapping groundwater salinity profiles
  • Development and assessment of algae biofuel technologies

A primary research focus during past decade has been on developing decision making tools for assessing the impacts of drainage water quality projects on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley with an emphasis on salinity and selenium drainage. Field research has included investigations of natural selenium in-transit losses in wetland channels used for drainage discharge and application of the concept of real-time water quality management in the San Joaquin Basin of California as a means of improving the scheduling of both agricultural and wetland drainage return flows to coincide with San Joaquin River assimilative capacity. Other agro-ecology projects include the operation and performance testing of an algal-bacterial bioremediation plant for removing selenium from agricultural drain water in a major west-side irrgation district. Groundwater and surface water quality modeling projects have been largely focused on developing a better quantitative understanding of the relationship between irrigation water management and drainage salt and selenium loading to the San Joaquin River. More recent collaborative projects are dealing with water and land resource issues connected with a future potential algae biofuel industry.

Current research web links

Press Coverage

Academic Degrees

BSc (Hons) Agricultural Engineering, Cranfield University, England 1977

MS Agricultural and Civil Engineering Iowa State University, Ames, IA. 1981

PhD Civil and Environmental Engineering Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. 1987